22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 29 August 2010)

With glad and generous hearts

A Sermon on Stewardship


Readings
Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16
Luke 14.1, 7-14

We’ve reached the final week of our series on Mission and Stewardship. In our series, we’ve heard that the Church is here for the benefit of those outside, not for the benefit of its members. But we’ve also said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

We’ve also heard that the life of discipleship opens us up to the abundant life that Jesus promises.

We’re talking about stewardship today. Perhaps you haven’t realised it, but we’ve been talking about stewardship already. Stewardship is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Jesus are good stewards of their time, talents and treasure. And by doing that, they live the abundant life that Jesus promises.

A minister had served a church for a few months in an interim position. During the last Sunday service that he was to spend at the church, his hat was passed around for a freewill offering.

When it returned to the minister, it was empty. He didn’t flinch or hesitate. He raised his hat to heaven and said, ‘I thank you, Lord, that I got my hat back from this congregation.’

Were the people in this story good stewards? Maybe they were. But I’d guess they were terrible stewards. Why might I think they weren’t good stewards? I think it’s because they hung onto things instead of sharing them.

Stewardship is about generosity, it’s about being a generous disciple. Stewardship is about using our time, talents and money generously, abundantly. A good steward is not afraid to give of themselves in sacrificial ways.

That’s not how some people think of stewardship. Some people have an Ebenezer Scrooge approach to stewardship. They think of stewardship as being careful. Not spending too much. Keeping stuff in reserve. Having a good bank balance. Saving for a rainy day.

Stewardship isn’t about being careful. It’s not about being careless, either. Stewardship isn’t chucking money away that we haven’t got.

Stewardship is about being carefree. It’s about knowing what out time, talents and treasure are for. Christian stewards are unafraid in this time that often seems so difficult and insecure. Christian stewards are willing to listen to entrepreneurial voices and to discern the voice of God through those voices. Christian stewards are willing to risk something for the sake of Jesus. Remember the Parable of the Talents? The bloke who’d buried his talent in a field was condemned, not commended; only those who risked their talents received their Lord’s approval.

Today we heard these words from the Book of Hebrews:

Through [Jesus], let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

We should be good stewards of our words. The ‘sacrifice of praise’ is a fitting offering for us to make. It is fitting for us to confess our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should be good stewards of our deeds. And we should do good and share what we have—this is a sacrifice pleasing to God. We are to be generous with our words and our actions.

So stewardship is about generosity, which may even be to the point of sacrifice. How can stewrdship be anything else for us, who follow the Lord Jesus Christ?

In our Gospel reading, Jesus talks about the generosity of his table. No one is excluded. He invites ‘the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind’ to his banquet. He is a generous steward of the Father’s abundance.

After all, the Apostle Paul said,

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

There are many opportunities for generous stewardship in this congregation. People give of their time and talents. They greet people at the door, they read the scriptures, they lead youth and children’s work or look after the AV.

We give of our treasure. Since the days of St Paul, Christians have set aside money for the work of the church and the welfare of others. We do the same. Each of us determines how much we give, and how much we withhold; but the same principle of generosity applies.

Most Australians wish they had more money. Our instinct is to hold on to it. But let’s look around at our neighbours in flooded Pakistan, in war-torn Afghanistan, in sad Zimbabwe, and in Indigenous settlements in our own backyard, before we decide too quickly that we don’t have enough.

Soon we’ll have a chance to make pledges of our time, talents and treasure, and the challenge to us to to follow Jesus, who gave himself for us and for all people.

We who have been made rich in so many ways are to share what we have with others so that they too can move out of poverty, whether it is spiritual poverty or material poverty. It’s simple discipleship. It’s simply following Jesus. It’s living the mission of God.

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